This is some pretty emotional stuff, guys, but here it goes.
As you may or may not know, this Season--Season 9--will be the last season of the NBC show The Office. Let's just take a moment here.
For nine years, I've watched The Office loyally. I don't know about you, dear reader, but that constitutes a significant chunk of my adult life. And really, at this point, I feel an almost inexplicable bond with these characters, something that makes me feel sort of silly, and then say, wait, fuck it, I don't care. I am unabashedly attached to completely fictional beings, and that's okay.
What was it that made these characters so compelling? There are a whole number of answers to that question. Is it the "everyman" thing, the fact that, if you've ever worked or temped at an office, you know these sorts of people totally exist, (albeit in normally more tempered, less amusing forms?) Maybe. But what I really think did it for me was that I felt like I really got to know the characters as "normal" but very complex, growing people. This show made me nearly piss myself laughing a number of times, but I felt like it was more than a comedy. It addressed the small disappointments, the tensions and the nagging existential concerns (as well as the accompanying joy and fulfillment) that, at least in part, define white-collar first world life.
These characters were compelling because they were real. They grew like people grow. And the feeling you got as a viewer was that you were there, watching it happen. The obvious example here is Jim and Pam. As long-time viewers might know, the tension between them was almost unbearable to watch for a long, long time....ALMOST. You got to watch this bond subtly form and accumulate over the course of years. YEARS! Like it does in real life. Remember this?
And how shit got seriously real and turned into this?
And then this went down
These moments were gut-shot real. Sure, they existed to keep us captivated and watching, but they were real moments. You could feel them, sincerely. There were complicated conflicting emotions and points of will and decision-making and you just sat there and FELT.
Which made their eventual reunion all the more compelling. I can't help myself. Remember these?
Okay, I'm done. This isn't a Jim & Pam fanpage (.....yet). At this point you might think I'm a total sucker for sap....and in some ways, you're right. But I generally don't buy into that kind of stuff on TV shows. It just doesn't do anything for me. But why do I have all the feelings for Jim and Pam? What I think is really exceptional, what kept me feeling despite the sometimes super-sugary saccharine, is that nothing is ever perfect with Jim and Pam, the most seemingly perfect union of two people...and that makes it real. There's dropped calls and unplanned pregnancies and exhaustion...and, most compellingly, there is a change in their relationship once they're married with kids. They're grown-ups. They're used to each other. There are even fights and breakdowns and for a second there, you're unsure if they're going to make it. But there's still love ....only it's tempered, mature love. That's real life, folks. That's not your average sitcom.
Even more of the genius of the show comes out through perhaps the anti-Jim and Pam, Angela and Dwight.
Angela and Dwight really started as one-sided gag characters, without much depth: the weird, unsocialized, self-serious office nerd and the prude, judgmental religious office cat lady. Those are both pretty definite "types" (as are Jim and Pam, but I digress.) But as the show progresses, you see different, more complex elements of each character through their relationship with one another. The weird, covert affections are absolutely heartrendingly eerily adorable.
Which makes it all the more revealing and endearing when they get caught in situations like this:
What really is amazing about the way Greg Daniels (the writer of this fantastic show) makes you sincerely care about two characters who were written totally antipathetically in the beginning of the series...and who continue to act with emotional immaturity throughout. It's painfully obvious that they both have love for one another, but the real question is if they have the emotional maturity to handle it. Angela has acted totally emotionally irresponsibly (as, at times, has Dwight), and you feel this amazing mix of sympathy and blame for them both...which is basically undershadowed by the overwhelming need for them to just get together already, for fucks' sake.
In any case, Angela and Dwight become anything but joke characters. Not that there's anything wrong with joke characters....
So obviously, I am majorly attached to The Office, and when I heard it was going off the air after this season, I was seriously bummed.
But, upon further thought, I'm actually incredibly glad the show is going off the air. Some shows simply do not know when to quit, or know when to quit and then find the show too lucrative to end: jumping the shark, so to speak. We saw it on How I Met Your Mother. We saw it on The O.C. We saw it on One Tree Hill. We saw it on a whole bunch of shows...and not just in the fan-purist "Oh, the later seasons suuuuck" kind of way. They genuinely became bad because it was longer possible for the plot to be continued organically.
Some fans allege that The Office jumped the shark once it kept going after Michael Scott left...but I seriously disagree. There was a need plot-wise for this season...but only if done correctly. And in all honesty, I believe this was done correctly. We have time to see characters resolve properly...and then for the show to end, with dignity. Hopefully, staying true to the real nature of most of the plots on this show, there will be some loose ends or some messy resolutions, but it will all be done intentionally That's the awesome thing about a show creator who knows when it's time to go: he can write accordingly.
So will I miss these characters that I feel so strangely attached to? Yup. Is it because I feel like it's the end of an era and I am a nostalgic feelings-haver? Hell yes. But am I insanely glad that Greg Daniels had the good sense to end the show well rather than drag it out? Super hell yes.
I still kind of feel like a kid releasing some wild animal he caught back into the wild, because it would be the best thing for the animal, and the kid is all trying to be strong and he's like "GO, JUST GO!", and the animal slowly, confusedly backs away and then leaves, and the kid knows he's done right, but he's still totally bummed, and a single, brave little tear slips down his cheek.
Yeah. This is just like that.